I am a downtrodden minority: a heterosexual male working in ELT.
I’m not sexist. Joseph Conrad, one of the greatest writers of 20th century fiction, had it right: ‘Being a woman is a terribly difficult task since it consists principally in dealing with men.’ I’m also not homophobic. Live and let live.
But I am curious about this general trend in teaching: why does there *seem* to be a disproportionate percentage of females and non-hetero males compared to overall population? I have no data or scientific study to support this impression, but let’s consider it a fact nonetheless.
So how am I victimised and downtrodden as a hetero male? Top 5:
1. I feel disenfranchised when male colleagues refer to their boyfriends, partners or husbands.
2. I can’t relate to their anecdotes about trips to G.A.Y in Soho on holiday and during the annual IH AMT Conference.
3. I can’t adapt my lessons to include same-sex couples without a. checking details with colleagues or b. feeling like an intruder.
4. I constantly feel guilty about my hetero-normative, patriarchal, misogynistic (not to mention white privileged) world view. How can I correct myself?
5. I don’t know the words to Madonna and Lady Gaga songs, so can’t sing along in the regular staff room karaoke/flash mobs.
Stop screaming. Breath. Step back. That was satire.
Now, really…When you ‘problematise’ life, you create problems where they do not exist. I might be a minority in ELT as a heterosexual male, but I’m certainly not downtrodden or anyone’s victim.
Driven by desperation and an excuse for underachievement, it’s easy and cowardly to hide from personal responsibility behind the wall of ‘victim’; another competitor in the Oppression Olympics of Competitive Victimhood. Especially when there exists genuine discrimination which you’re distracting people from.
I’m male. I’m also heterosexual. I’m also Caucasian. I also like running. I also can’t draw very well. I also have skeletons which I won’t write about here. My identity, like anyone else’s, is so multi-faceted that drawing out one or two of the factors which make me who I am is disingenuous and makes a mockery of my individuality. i’m not JUST white. I’m not JUST straight. I’m not JUST anything. I agree with Jordan Peterson:
‘Why are they choosing the differences that they choose? Why not other differences – there are an infinite number of “groups” and categories of people. Eventually, taken to its logical conclusion, the individual is the ultimate minority.’
Another quote from him: ‘The basic post-modern neo-Marxist template…The way that we should view the world is victim vs oppressor…I think that’s a bad way of looking at the world psychologically, sociologically, politically, economically, ideologically, you name it. It ends in nothing but catastrophe, first of all because it puts your group identity as something that is paramount. That isn’t what we do in the West; we put your individual identity paramount.’
(Jordan Peterson on JRE #1208)
So given that each individual’s identity can be seen through so many lenses, how is it even feasible (even if it were ethical) to achieve equity i.e. equality of outcome in the field of ELT hiring?
Sam Harris articulates this better than I, referring to the American job market:
‘”If there are any less than 13% of African Americans in any one of those bins (top doctors, academics, Oscar winners or wherever you want to look for achievement), that has to be the result of systemic racism.” That is the leftward bias at this moment, so it is with Jews, so it is for women…Any disparity must be a result of inequitable resources…or selection pressure from the top. If you believe that, you will consistently find racial bias, anti-Semitism and misogyny where it doesn’t exist.’
(Sam Harris on JRE #1107.)
So what you’re saying is…?
Genuine discrimination does exist, but attention-seeking folk playing the victim distracts valuable resources away from dealing with these authentic issues.
Am I a minority because I’m a heterosexual male in ELT? If I’m a numeric minority, does it mean I’m necessarily downtrodden?
Widening the scope to an ongoing saga in ELT, is a non-native speaker’s identity based solely on their mother tongue? If I were a non-native speaker (whatever that means…), should I claim oppression to further my employment possibilities? Is there empirical evidence that I’m downtrodden, anyway? For the record, if discrimination is evident, such as adverts specifically asking for a native speaker, then I believe decisive action should be taken, as I wrote about a year ago.
However, despite TEFL Equity’s good work in raising awareness of a widespread problem, equity = equality of outcome (not opportunity), so even if we grant, for the sake of the length of this article, that every non-native speaker is oppressed by ‘the system’ (maaaaan), should schools introduce quota systems to ensure equity?
How would this work precisely: a staff room with proportionate ratios of each race according to global population i.e. should approximately 18% be Chinese? And what if a native speaker is better qualified, more experienced and better suited personally? In any case, equity is a farcical concept if you consider an individual to be more than an avatar of a single group identity.
So please, chums, take responsibility for yourself instead of hiding behind victimhood; this will provide a valuable example to students setting about their own lives. We’re teaching values and life skills, after all, not just English. Right?